Dollhouse: Alpha’s back

KT offers up part 2 of Dollhouse Monday!

DOLLHOUSE:  2.08 “A Love Supreme”

I like this new, suave Alpha.  Last spring we saw him play hilariously timid and we saw his megalomania, so it was fun to see a different facet of his insanity.  It amuses me to imagine Alpha as a sort of comic book villain for the Dollhouse — the kind that comes back every once in a while, stirs up some mayhem, but always escapes to fight another day.

And I like this new, soulful Echo who banters with Topher in an almost world-weary way.  Eliza Dushku has taken some heat for not being as versatile a doll as some of her co-stars, but in this episode and “Meet Jane Doe,” I think Echo is becoming more deep.  I thought Eliza was excellent here.

Ballard and Boyd make a good team, and it’s not just the alliteration.  Boyd is the calm rock, Ballard is more excitable, and their affection for Echo provides both a bond and just enough rivalry for a little flavor.

And since Topher knows a conspiracy when he desperately tries to avoid seeing one, he badgers Ballard and Boyd into telling him the truth about Echo, which blows his mind.  Topher’s reaction to the news and to Echo herself was as though a doll had come to life… so to speak.  The question of what is Echo is a valid one at this point, and I enjoyed watching Topher wrestle with it.  And after the debacle with his blueprints in “Meet Jane Doe,” I don’t think he would have confided in Adelle about this one any time soon.

I can’t decide which amused me more:  the scene where Sierra saunters in talking about guys and dolls like she’s stepped out of a Damon Runyon story or the earlier scene in which Dr. Victor can’t keep his eyes off her even as he’s analyzing gender relations.

But all of that gets pushed to the side when Alpha begins to make himself known.  He’s got a mean jealous streak, and begins to take out all of Echo’s repeat clients — all the people who love Echo.  When Boyd and Ballard catch up to him, there seems to be only one left:  Joel Mynor from “Man on the Street.”  Thematically, Joel’s here to offer another perspective on loving an active and on love itself, but it’s also just fun to have Patton Oswalt come back and have a scene with Topher.

This time there’s no fuss about how exactly Alpha got in; he just steps out of Adelle’s bathroom and offers to show her his vacation photos.  Turns out he spent some time in Texas, too!  So that should clear up any doubts Adelle may have had about who was helping Echo.

Alpha also slips in a reference to Monty Python here, which made me laugh because Alan Tudyk has been in Spamalot (he played Lancelot for about six months in 2005) as well as in a production called An Evening Without Monty Python earlier this fall.

That’s approximately the point at which the episode decideds that there’s been enough talking and there really should be some running and fighting now.  Alpha achieves this neatly by triggering all the actives into mindless fighters, then hunts out Joel Mynor, who becomes bait for Paul Ballard.  And while I’m sure Alpha killed Echo’s clients because it suited his sick sense of humor, it becomes clear that his real target all along was Paul, who despite his obsession has worked so very hard to not fall in love with Echo.  But Paul, as we’ve known all along, is not special.  And for all his efforts, he winds up braindead in the dollhouse, his personality added to the cocktail of craziness in Alpha’s head.

Here’s my question:  If Paul’s saved to that wedge, can he be re-imprinted with himself?

But for now, Echo’s watching over Paul and Joel Mynor has taken his leave, intending to leave the Dollhouse forever and remarry.  He’s the flip side of the guy at the beginning who blew his fortune on engagements with Echo.  Adelle’s pitch is always that the Dollhouse gives you what you need, but you have to know for yourself how much you really do need.  Joel got it right, got through his grief, and is moving on; the other guy became an addict, I suppose, and didn’t know when to stop.  There’s a real pathos about loving and depending upon a person who doesn’t exist.

It’s Summer-time in the ‘Dollhouse’

I know you all heard the rumors that Joss Whedon was trying to get Summer Glau to be in an episode of Dollhouse. And I’m sure a lot of your were all for it (after all, I was).

Well, Joss Whedon seems to have one-upped you. Not only is she appearing in an episode, but Summer Glau is joining the cast of Dollhouse as a recurring character. Summer will play Bennett, a Dollhouse employee who shares a secret past with Echo.

It looks like we’ve got a good number of badass yet talented brunettes in the cast now: Eliza Dushku, Amy Acker, Summer Glau. And those are just naming the obvious!

So what do you think? Are you ready to see Summer in Dollhouse? Are you disappointed she’s not a doll? Though, honestly, who’s really to say she’s not after we outed Whiskey…

Anyway, looks like we’ve got an exciting season ahead of us. Don’t forget, the new season starts on Friday, September 25, at 9:00. Take that, Friday night death slot.

image from reporter.blogs.com

image from reporter.blogs.com

Dollhouse: Keeping our own voices

KT and Raked (read her post here) finally get a look at the episode that never aired in the U.S.  You can buy it on the season 1 DVD or through iTunes.

DOLLHOUSE:  1.13 “Epitaph One”

It’s 2019 and we’re following a ragged group of survivors through urban rubble.  Gotta say, Dollhouse‘s answer to “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” is one I’ll pass on, personally.

Structurally, we’ve all seen this before:  one plot in the present intercut with flashbacks that help to explain how we got here.  (I think I’m going to call 2019 “the present” for this post, and all of the memory scenes “flashbacks,” even through most of them are flashforwards from a 2009, Dollhouse season 1 perspective.  Otherwise the verbs get weird.)  And we all know the horror movie plot where the characters keep dying while we scream at the TV about how you should at least check the shadows  before undressing for a very exposed shower.  We know that even if the main suspect seems crazy, she’ll ultimately prove to be innocent.

But what I think is neat here is that they’ve written themselves ten years into the future.  The 2019 storyline kept just enough tension and paranoia to carry it along while the flashbacks carried the episode.  Think of it:  this is potentially a sneak preview of where the show might go in the future if it gets the chance, yet also that there’s plenty of room to explain how we get into those situations.

And I loved that they didn’t over-explain.  Where was Boyd going, and why, and what was his relationship with Saunders?  How did Paul and Caroline make their escape?  What exactly was “thanks to Alpha?”  How did Adelle wind up running what was apparently a safe house for actives, and what drove Topher around the bend?  We can guess enough to go with it, but there are plenty of stories left to tell:  the journey is at least as interesting as the destination.

Cleverly, the most important clue to what precipitated this dystopia is tucked into Topher’s mad raving:  someone could instantly imprint people through a phone call, just like Alpha wiped Echo over the phone in “Grey Hour.”  Topher’s division of people who answered the phone and people who didn’t seems to have become Mag and company’s division of “butchers” and “actuals.”

An odd side effect of introducing the 2019 characters was that it made me all the more excited to recognize the familiar sets and remember how much I like all of the series regulars.  How great was it that Mag, Zone, and the others jumped to the assumption that Topher’s office was a daycare?  (Reminded me just a bit of Motel of the Mysteries, a hilarious book in which future archaeologists describe a 20th century motel as a temple complex.  Sorry, tangent.)

My quibble about the flashbacks was the way they were introduced via The Chair.  Were we supposed to assume that Mr. Miller parroted what each person said, or that he narrated and summarized the scenes we saw?  Also I wasn’t always clear about whose memories we were getting, and that bothered me too.  Often we seemed to be in Adelle’s head, which is interesting because we’ve never seen her in the chair.

[Dominic, Mag, and the big, sunny ending after the jump.] Continue reading

Are you dead or alive? I can never decide.

KT wonders whether you believe in ghosts. Raked wonders if Tru Calling was finally renewed by FOX.

DOLLHOUSE: 1.10 “Haunted”

KT:

Okay, here’s the thing.  Margaret goes through a long, painful process to have her brain scanned by the Dollhouse because she’s been scared all her life that someone will kill her for her money.  But, as Adelle says, Echo’s body is only ever a loan for Margaret.  So yes, that’s all very well that Margaret has the Dollhouse as backup in case of murder, but all that backup gets her is a chance to play detective and the dubious pleasure of hearing what everyone really thought of her.  She thought this was a good idea why, exactly?

Paranoia.  Okay.  Character trait.  Whatever, moving on.

Here’s the other thing.  Uh, where are the police?  Surely the son couldn’t make it look so very natural that the police have given up on this mysterious death already?

Nitpicking aside, I do like a good who-dunnit, and I thought that this one succeeded at laying out the evidence so that I could think back and say, yup, it all adds up.  And wasn’t it fascinating that Margaret’s son (who, I assume, had been working on Wall Street as his mother wanted) guessed Echo’s identity because he was a client of the Manhattan Dollhouse.  That’s the first we’ve seen of how word of Dollhouse’s existence circulates among the super-rich.  That also suggests that when Echo told Ballard in “Man on the Street” that there are 20 Dollhouses out there, she was giving him at least some real information.

But this week – oh, Paul.  You’re completely divorced from the main plot yet again (though the preview for next week suggests that won’t last).  Although Mellie continues to be charming, their sex scene was every bit as disturbing as I’m sure it was intended to be.  And Paul’s self-flagellation is not going to stay interesting for long.  However, despite my “he snuck into the FBI building…how?” skepticism, I did like the scene with his former colleague, Loomis.  I liked her when she appeared before and I think she would be a good partner for Ballard – someone to help him but also keep him a little more grounded.  Interesting visual in which the search results pop up and then disappear, but I’m not sure what we’re supposed to infer from this.  Is someone out there digitally watching the search and suppressing that info just as the results are coming in?

Topher and Sierra’s play day was adorable.  And of course Adelle would understand that Topher needs a little companionship from time to time, given what we learned about her in the last episode.  It was interesting to me that Topher didn’t seem to care which doll became his buddy; a contrast to Adelle – it seemed to me that the Roger program belonged specifically to Victor.

Speaking of Victor and Sierra, I think I have to say that Enver Gjokaj and Dichen Lachman continue to out-act Eliza Dushku.  I like Eliza, and I don’t think she’s a poor actress at all.  But… Enver and Dichen have been putting out some really stellar performances and have been doing a great job of making each imprint seem like a completely different person, and I think they deserve some recognition for that.

Tangent from nowhere:  I wonder what the Dollhouse does to give its actives necessary physical characteristics.  I’m talking about Victor’s horse buyer character – if his hands didn’t have lots of calluses and a certain amount of dirt under the nails, wouldn’t be that be a flag to other horse people?

And although I liked the main plot, it seemed odd in such a short season to have a stand alone episode this close to the end.  I wonder if there are more clues here than perhaps we realize.  Did we ever learn where Adelle met Margaret?  Something related to Adelle’s former job, which Margaret might have given funding to? Or perhaps a thematic contrast is being set up: someone who didn’t come nicely back to the Dollhouse to be wiped.  Total speculation here, guys; I have no idea.

Raked’s thoughts after the jump.

Continue reading

Was blind but now she sees…everything? Part 2.

Looks like this episode brought out a lot of thought in Raked and KT, so we’ve got a two-parter post on our hands! Read below for the second half, aka, KT’s thoughts.

DOLLHOUSE: 3.05 “True Believer”

KT:

That was a fun hour of television, but analytically, I’m of two minds.

Nitpick:  Echo went through what Saunders described as “brain surgery” and is ready to go in 24 hours?  No recovery time there?  And how exactly was that camera implanted in her eye such that a good smack to the head knocked it out of alignment or knocked the connection loose or whatever it did.  I know a little bit about Lasix and cateract surgery and how the eye works, and it wasn’t helping me.  The technology in this episode required a lot of disbelief suspension.

On the other hand, I thought that Eliza Dushku did a great job as the blind religious fanatic.  I’ve heard complaints that all her characters are too much like Faith, and I thought this was a good departure from that.  That said, once she regained her sight, the persona seemed too… normal.  I think the script was as much to blame (maybe more) as the acting, but she seemed to lose the “I know I am the chosen of God” kind of inner glow that helps to make that kind of fanatical character interesting, regardless of blindness.

Nitpick:  It remains unclear to me why Jonas was collecting that stash of weapons.  Yes, he foresaw problems with outsiders, but he also seemed very protective of his flock’s innocence.  I’m not convinced that he would ask them to take up arms.  So… why all the guns, exactly?

On the other hand, finding that the cult really is benign and has been set up by a lawman with a grudge was a nice twist.  As an extension of Raked’s comment about impressions being dangerous, I think we’re also looking at the danger of taking things too literally or too simplistically.  The scrawl on the back of the grocery list was not what it appeared to be, and Jonas’s reliance on the literal truth of the Old Testament story only worsened a dangerous situation.

Sadly, the way the ATF agent went about satisfying his grudge only seemed to prove what Jonas had been saying about the wickedness of the outside world.  The clear parallel this week is between the compound and the Dollhouse:  each is a bastion of innocence, security, and serenity for its inhabitants, but is run by folks who are far more worldly.  Folks who are no strangers to breaking the law — only difference is that Jonas was caught and did time whereas the Dollhouse has friends in high places.  Like this Senator person.  Want to bet that he’s one of the people leaning on Ballard’s higher ups, trying to get him to drop this Dollhouse business.

But in both the compound and the Dollhouse, there’s trouble in paradise.  We’ve seen Echo and Sierra start to bond, but now perhaps we’ve seen why Victor is our third “bison” — he’s got a crush on Sierra.  (And really, who can blame him?  She’s adorable.)

Which is all very well, but the scenes between Topher and Saunders bugged the heck out of me.  Topher clearly has all the emotional maturity of a thirteen-year-old.  “Man reaction,” seriously?  Do he and Saunders have a romantic past that makes this so awkward?  And I’m starting to wonder if she’s part Vulcan for all the emotion she shows.  I don’t mind that, if there’s a character reason for her to be that way, but I want to know what it is!  I saw season 5 of Angel, so I know it’s not that Amy Acker is a poor actress.

Speaking of Paul, his catching up to the scene of Echo’s latest escapade was an improvement in the effort to bring the two plots together, but it also kind of felt like a cross over episode of Dollhouse and The Paul Ballard Show.  Maybe next week (guessing from the promo) will start to pull these threads together.

Was blind but now she sees…everything? Part 1.

Open your hearts and embrace a brand new review of Dollhouse. We’ve got our own two-parter post here, so read below for thoughts from Raked and then KT’s post right after!

DOLLHOUSE: 3.05 “True Believer”

Raked:

I’m flying blind a little myself here. Where to start, where to start. We now see that it’s not just minds they can mess with in their dolls. Just like adding in the small aspect of asthma, we can add blindness to the imprinting queue, with fancy little cameras to boot! By the way, the actual procedure? Super creepy and super awesome!

This episode was certainly intriguing, though I was a wee bit hesitant to hate the “cult” that they were spouting. From what we saw, they were really just religious fanatics, so to speak, and the only danger came when the Feds arrived. Sure, there was that little problem with the arsenal, but the danger didn’t appear inside the compound until danger appeared outside the gate. Perhaps that was the point: that the real reason something was wrong with the compound was that the Feds really just wanted there to be. An overarching message that people’s impressions might just be more dangerous than reality perhaps. (I might be stretching it a little; I’ll leave it to KT to prove me wrong.)  (Nope, not this week — I like your reasoning.  -KT)

Moving on beyond the basic plot, it appears imprinting might not be the most flawless procedure. Not that we haven’t seen errors before (remote de-imprinting and Echo breaking outside the box to threaten). Echo’s eyes flipped back to normal with one swift blow to the head. Not even a direct blow to the eye itself. Good thing she was able to blame it on a miracle. Meanwhile, in the end, we get another glimpse of some negative vibes in the name of Laurence Dominic.

We’ve seen it before. At the end of one episode, Echo shook her head in fright in the Dollhouse when she saw Dominic. Now, in the end, she’s seeing “perfectly” looking down on him from above. Of course, she has good reason to be scared. Especially when he hits her with the butt of a gun and knocked her out cold in a burning building.

But at least we’re seeing one brief look into his reasoning. Could Echo be the next Alpha? Based on discussions with Adelle, maybe he’s just watching out for the Dollhouse. Or maybe he’s just covering his own ass, not wanting to some day be covered in Amy Acker’s gorgeous-though-they’re-not-supposed-to-be scars.

But is there more? There has to be. I feel like there’s a darker purpose in this man than just watching out for the Dollhouse. Otherwise, why would he try to kill for it? And taunt her when she’s in her blank doll state?

Anyway, more questions, and very intriguing, and it looks like next week’s one not to be missed. I’d like to know what you all thought about tonight’s episode, though. Particularly, how did you like Eliza Dushku’s blindness? I have mixed reviews, but maybe I’m just picky.

I’ll leave KT to cover some more of the rest (after all, I just watched it–I should gather my thoughts), so keep reading!

Broken people and other plot twists

KT here, friends and neighbors.  Raked is away, celebrating her dad’s birthday, so you’re stuck with me for tonight.

DOLLHOUSE:  1.04  “Grey Hour”

And the plot thickens…

Alpha’s out there somewhere, and from the sound of it, he is the Dollhouse’s very own version of Frankenstein’s monster:  a creation they in some way failed to nurture, lost control over, and that seems to have the power to take down its creator.  What kind of genius doctor imprint did they give Alpha, anyway?  What is his fixation on Echo?  Do you suppose his aim was to get Echo captured by the SWAT team as a step toward either exposing the Dollhouse or freeing Echo?

And while I’m posing questions I can’t answer, here are a few more.  How has a loose cannon like Paul Ballard not been reined in and given a desk job?  Surely the FBI doesn’t tolerate screw-ups on the level he seems to make them.  And Adelle DeWitt said that she is trying to give him closure regarding his Dollhouse investigation, with the aim of getting him off their back.  Anyone got a clue as to how Lubov’s plea for asylum going to lead to that?  I think Lubov is amusing, but beyond that I’m not feeling particularly invested in this plotline yet – it still feels like a completely separate show, and I’m not getting enough depth about Ballard to be particularly interested in him.

The engagement-of-the-week plot had plenty of twistiness to it as well, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The bachelor party scenerio became a ton more interesting when it suddenly became apparent that it was an elaborate set-up to get Echo-Taffy into the right office.

I really loved seeing two dolls imprinted with the same persona, although I would have liked Sierra’s version to be a little more hard-edged, especially since hard-edged is practically Dushku’s trademark.  Or perhaps the point is to see that the same imprint doesn’t turn out exactly the same – that some innate qualities belonging to the doll also come into play.  I swear, this show is designed to be a philosophical, anthropological, sociological playground, if it can manage to hang around for a while.

Case in point:  Although the scenes of helpless Echo trapped in the vault with the two other guys seemed to run a little long, those paintings were the perfect way to pose questions about how we know what we know, and how we percieve ourselves.  In the end, not only is stealing stolen art a poetic justice-y sort of crime, but the art was far more useful to the plot than plain ol’ cash would have been.

Echo isn’t the only one feeling unusually helpless in this episode.  There’s always something incongruous about Topher.  His youth and style and nonchalance always give him a “boy genius” kind of feeling, regardless of his intellegence, expertise, and position.  But tonight, he seemed younger than ever:  he was dressed to fit in with the physicists on Big Bang Theory, he insisted that he wanted juice boxes, and through most of the episode, he’s spazzing all over the place.  But yet, in the end, DeWitt increases his security clearance, knowing that she needs his scientific understanding.  That’s an interesting relationship, that one.

Speaking of Topher’s clothes, what exactly is the dress code around here, anyway?  The other tech introduced tonight (Ivy?) seems an odd sort of foil for Topher, one whose clothes are more sophisticated, but even less workplace appropriate.  I’ll be interested to see if she develops – hope she becomes more than just someone for Topher to spout exposition at when Boyd isn’t around.

For that matter, isn’t it interesting that Boyd seems to hang out with Topher so much?  Since they’re usually in Topher’s offices, it doesn’t seem like Topher seeks out Boyd – and yet, Boyd often seems dismissive of Topher.  Does that mean Boyd fits in even less well with the other handlers.  His interaction with Sierra’s handler last week would suggest that might be so.

And interesting too, that even though some level of connection between handler and doll is programmed into the system, Boyd seems to be more attached to Echo than is usual.  Perhaps what we saw of Sierra’s handler last week is more the norm.  And, since it seems to be her job to know everything that goes on in the Dollhouse, DeWitt takes that into account.  Shrewd woman.

And whatever will come of our three favorite dolls becoming “a little bit bison”?